Heim­lich famed for ma­neu­ver

Tech­nique saved many vic­tims of chok­ing

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Lisa Corn­well

cincin­nati» The sur­geon who cre­ated the life­sav­ing Heim­lich ma­neu­ver for chok­ing vic­tims died early Satur­day in Cincin­nati. Dr. Henry Heim­lich was 96.

His son, Phil, said he died at Christ Hospi­tal af­ter suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack ear­lier in the Heim­lich week.

“My fa­ther was a great man who saved many lives,” said Heim­lich, an at­tor­ney and for­mer Hamil­ton County com­mis­sioner. “He will be missed not only by his fam­ily but by all of hu­man­ity.”

Heim­lich was di­rec­tor of surgery at Jewish Hospi­tal in Cincin­nati in 1974 when he de­vised the treat­ment for chok­ing vic­tims that made his name a house­hold word.

Res­cuers us­ing the pro­ce­dure abruptly squeeze a vic­tim’s ab­domen, push­ing in and above the navel with the fist to cre­ate a flow of air from the lungs. That flow of air then can push ob­jects out of the wind­pipe and pre­vent suf­fo­ca­tion.

Much of Heim­lich’s 2014 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy fo­cuses on the ma­neu­ver, which in­volves thrusts to the ab­domen that ap­ply up­ward pres­sure on the di­aphragm to cre­ate an air flow that forces food or other ob­jects out of the wind­pipe.

The Cincin­nati chest sur­geon told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a Fe­bru­ary 2014 in­ter­view that thou­sands of deaths re­ported an­nu­ally from chok­ing prompted him in 1972 to seek a so­lu­tion. Dur­ing the next two years, he led a team of re­searchers at Jewish Hospi­tal in Cincin­nati. He suc­cess­fully tested the tech­nique by putting a tube with a bal­loon at one end down an anes­thetized dog’s air­way un­til it choked. He then used the ma­neu­ver to force the dog to ex­pel the ob­struc­tion.

The Wilm­ing­ton, Del., na­tive es­ti­mated the ma­neu­ver has saved the lives of thou­sands of chok­ing vic­tims in the United States alone. It earned him sev­eral awards and world­wide recog­ni­tion. His name be­came a house­hold word.

The ma­neu­ver was adopted by pub­lic health au­thor­i­ties, air­lines and restau­rant as­so­ci­a­tions, and Heim­lich ap­peared on shows in­clud­ing the “The Tonight Show Star­ring Johnny Car­son” and “To­day.”

His views on how the ma­neu­ver should be used and on other in­no­va­tions he cre­ated or pro­posed put him at odds with some in the health field. He said his mem­oir was an ef­fort to pre­serve his tech­nique.

“I know the ma­neu­ver saves lives, and I want it to be used and re­mem­bered,” he told The AP.

The ma­neu­ver has con­tin­ued to make head­lines. Clint East­wood was at­tend­ing a golf event in Mon­terey, Calif., in 2014 when the then-83-year-old ac­tor saw the tour­na­ment di­rec­tor chok­ing on a piece of cheese and suc­cess­fully per­formed the tech­nique.

“The best thing about it is that it al­lows any­one to save a life,” Heim­lich told The AP.

In 2016, Heim­lich him­self was the hero, sav­ing a woman chok­ing on food at his se­nior liv­ing cen­ter.

Heim­lich said the ma­neu­ver is very ef­fec­tive when used cor­rectly, but he did not ap­prove of Amer­i­can Red Cross guide­lines call­ing for back blows fol­lowed by ab­dom­i­nal thrusts in chok­ing cases that don’t in­volve in­fants or un­con­scious vic­tims. Red Cross of­fi­cials said ev­i­dence shows us­ing mul­ti­ple meth­ods can be more ef­fec­tive, but Heim­lich said blows can drive ob­struc­tions deeper into a wind­pipe.

The el­der Heim­lich at­tended Cor­nell Univer­sity un­der­grad­u­ate and med­i­cal schools and in­terned at Bos­ton City Hospi­tal. Dur­ing World War II, the U.S. Navy sent him to north­west China in 1942 to treat Chi­nese and Amer­i­can forces be­hind Ja­panese lines in the Gobi Desert.

Heim­lich’s wife, Jane, daugh­ter of the late dance teacher Arthur Mur­ray, died in Novem­ber 2012.

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